More than 400 years ago, Shakespeare observed, “clothes make the man.” Today, we might say, “dress for success.” However you say it, most of us sense that wearing a sharp suit to a job interview boosts our confidence and increases our chances of getting that job.
The impact of clothing on children is similar. Studies have proven that wearing a new coat can bolster a kid’s confidence and self-esteem. The feeling of pride created by wearing a new coat can help a child perform better at school and earn better grades. Most of all, a coat provides cozy warmth on a cold winter day. All of these factors support Kars4Kids’ mission to help kids improve their lives, so deciding to sponsor a massive coat giveaway was a slam-dunk decision.
On a rainy November Sunday afternoon, we traveled to Philadelphia with 1,500 brand new children’s coats. Two Pennsylvania state representatives, Brian Sims and Malcolm Kenyatta, volunteered their time to help us distribute the coats. Both declined the opportunity to make any speeches or act like politicians. Instead, they rolled up their sleeves and got to work, helping the children find the right sizes and preferred colors.
Volunteers from the Urban League of Philadelphia joined us at a community center in the Spring Garden section of the city. Despite a constant downpour outside, a steady stream of children and families came into the center and expressed both delight and gratitude for the coats.
For some kids, this was the chance to make a fashion statement.
“I want a light blue one, please,” said one small boy. When we explained we only had navy blue, he examined every coat in his size before settling on khaki green.
“This is wonderful,” said one grandma as she zigzagged from table to table, selecting coats for all of her grandchildren.
Every child made a point of saying “thank you” to the volunteers before heading out the door.
On the way out, most of them slipped off their old, tattered coats and dropped them into a cardboard box. Then, they pulled the hoods on against the cold rain outside, stood up a little straighter, and sauntered out, proud of their new finery.
We could see their level of confidence rise, and we were grateful to play a part in it.